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New study on school bus safety shows injuries well exceed previous reports

Each year in the United States, 23.5 million children travel 4.3 billion miles on school buses.

A study out of the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) in the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Columbus Children's Hospital is the first to use a national sample to describe nonfatal school bus-related injuries to children and teenagers treated in emergency rooms across the country.

According to the study, published in the November issue of Pediatrics, from 2001 to 2003 there were an estimated 51,100 school bus-related injuries that resulted in treatment in an U.S. emergency room. That is about 17,000 injuries annually.

"The findings from this study indicate that motor vehicle crashes are the leading mechanism of nonfatal school bus-related injury for children in the U.S.," said CIRP Director Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, one of the study's authors and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "In addition, this study identified several other important mechanisms of school bus-related injury. Further research is needed to determine the relative contributions of structural and operational components of the school bus, supervision, and rider behavior to the occurrence of these injuries and the effectiveness of occupant restraint systems and other strategies to prevent these types of injuries."

The highest proportion of injuries occurred during the months of September and October. Children 10-to 14-years-old suffered the most injuries compared with all other age groups. Motor vehicle crashes, where the child was a passenger on the school bus as a result of a collision between the bus and another motor vehicle, topped the list and accounted for 42 percent of the total injuries. The next highest amount of injuries (24 percent) occurred as the child was getting on or off the school bus.

"Children 10-to 14-years-old may be more likely to ride the school bus because they are more independent than younger children, and older teens (15-to 19-years-old) are more likely to ride in a car with a friend or drive themselves to school," said Jennifer McGeehan, MPH, lead author of the study and member of the CIRP staff. "Therefore, school bus safety messages may need to especially reach and affect children 10-14 years."

More than half of all injuries among children younger than 10-years-old was to the head. While lower extremity injuries predominated among children 10-to 19-years-old. Strains and sprains accounted for the highest percentage of all injuries, followed by contusions, abrasions and lacerations.

Kristyn Wilson | EurekAlert!
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